Mexican Inclusion: The Origins of Anti-Discrimination Policy in Texas and the Southwest

Mexican Inclusion: The Origins of Anti-Discrimination Policy in Texas and the Southwest

Mexican Inclusion: The Origins of Anti-Discrimination Policy in Texas and the Southwest

Mexican Inclusion: The Origins of Anti-Discrimination Policy in Texas and the Southwest

Synopsis

Immigration across the US-Mexican border may currently be a hot topic, but it is hardly a new one. Labor issues and civil rights have been interwoven with the history of the region since at least the time of the Mexican-American War, and the twentieth century witnessed recurrent political battles surrounding the status and rights of Mexican immigrants. In Mexican Inclusion: The Origins of Anti-Discrimination Policy in Texas and the Southwest, political scientist Matthew Gritter traces the process by which people of Mexican origin were incorporated in the United States' first civil rights agency, the World War II-era President's Committee on Fair Employment Practices (FEPC).

Incorporating the analytic lenses of transnationalism, institutional development, and identity formation, Gritter explores the activities and impact of the FEPC. He argues that transnational and international networks related to the US's Good Neighbor Policy created an impetus for the federal government to combat discrimination against people of Mexican origin. The inclusion of Mexican American civil rights leaders as FEPC staff members combined with an increase in state capacity to afford the agency increased institutional effectiveness. The FEPC provided an opportunity for small-scale state building and policy innovation.?Gritter compares the outcomes of the agency's anti-discrimination efforts with class-based labor organizing. Grounded in pragmatic appeals to citizenship, Mexican American civil rights leaders utilized leverage provided by the Good Neighbor Policy to create their own distinct place in an emerging civil rights bureaucracy.

Students and scholars of Mexican American issues, civil rights, and government policy will appreciate Mexican Inclusion for its fresh synthesis of analytic and historical processes. Likewise, those focused on immigration and borderlands studies will gain new insights from its inclusive context.

Excerpt

How and when to protect groups from discrimination is an enduring puzzle in American politics. Designing policies and navigating the political landscapes of institutions have arisen as concerns throughout American political history. Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, Latinos have become the largest community of color and minority group in the United States, constituting 15.8 percent of the population. The approximately 31.7 million people of Mexican origin residing in the United States make up 10.3 percent of the population. Issues regarding immigration, border control and security, and citizenship tend to implicitly address the place of people of Mexican origin within the American polity. As the black-white binary holds less and less relevance to the reality of difference in the United States, turning to people of Mexican origin provides a possible road map for formulating strategies for democratic management of diversity. Exploring a model of political incorporation for people of Mexican origin through institutional interaction can be instrumental in designing strategies for including traditionally marginalized groups in the American polity.

Federal civil rights policy began two decades before the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. A great deal of attention in politics, popular culture, and academic literature has been devoted to the African American civil rights struggle, while the concurrent journey of people of Mexican origin lacks adequate attention and study. On June 25, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, creating the United States’ first federal antidiscrimination agency, the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). While the impetus for Roosevelt’s order was primarily pressure from African American groups, Executive Order 8802 described the FEPC’s mission as “to encourage full participation in the national defense program by all citizens of the United States, regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin, in the firm belief that the democratic way of life within the Nation can be defended successfully only with the help and support of all groups within its borders.” As a result the FEPC was created with the explicit mantra of promoting democracy at home through combating discrimination in the workforce. The inclusion of race, creed, color, and national origin in Executive Order 8802 . . .

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